I took this picture in 2002, but I found it this year by chance, researching images for a magazine story and a book on Afghan women’s poetry. I was looking for something else and scanned it for the first time this year. I might never have seen it again, which makes it fresh for me.
It was taken in the National Gallery in West Kabul in November, 2002, one year after the Taliban had fled the city in the wake of renewed foreign interest in Afghanistan after 9/11. It was part of an assortment of so-called ‘idolatrous’ art works in the gallery showing the human face that had been damaged by the Taliban. Feeling happy to have found examples of Taliban intolerance, I was anxious, as I posed the gallery-attendant, that the picture would be too contrived. Perhaps that’s one reason the image existed unscanned for years. Interesting how I see the picture differently now.
Like many photographers, I remember clearly the day I took it; what was going on in my life, how I was feeling, what I was looking for, what seemed important to me to photograph at that time. It was late morning and I remember feeling hungry. All of this came tumbling back when I discovered the black-and-white negative and looked at it on a lightbox. Negative. Lightbox. To some, this might sound like another era. But, in addition to everything else it does, any photograph—taken in 2013, yesterday, a minute ago, or a hundred years ago—on the oldest or the latest technology, is inevitably a record of the past.—Seamus Murphy.